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Does Sake Go Bad After Opening? Shelf Life Explained (2022)

Last Updated on August 25, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Sake is still a mystery to many consumers. If you have been consuming and experimenting with sake for a while, you have surely asked yourself whether or not a bottle of sake has an expiration date.

But, really, does sake go bad? Let’s find out.

Does Sake Expire?

No, sake doesn’t have a best-by date or an expiration date on the bottle. Instead, you will find the manufacturing date on the sake labels.

In Japan, alcoholic drinks, including sake, and Japanese wine, are exempted from the Food Labeling Law.

However, a small sector does put a best-by date to tell how long it will keep its high-quality freshly-produced sake flavor. 

Its Shelf Life

Unopened

Sake with glass on desk

An unopened sake in a cool and dark place can last up to two years. It is made from fermented rice and can claim a long shelf life.

Right storage can significantly increase sake’s shelf life and keep its enjoyable flavor longer than you might imagine.

Unpasteurized sake will last six months in an unopened bottle. It has a longer shelf life than an opened bottle because it’s kept sealed and intact.

To store sake, please keep it away from heat and light and make it intact with its box. Because once humid air enters the bottle, the drink could miss its potency.

After Opening

Sake oxidizes fast after opening. The taste may change in a few weeks or even a month. An opened pasteurized bottle of sake can be stored again for one to two years if tightly sealed.

On the contrary, unpasteurized sake will last 2-4 weeks after opening it.

Unlike wine, most kinds of sake aren’t good for aging. Consume it best within three days of opening to get the best quality taste and optimal flavor. The taste will alter because sake degrades with time.  

Unrefrigerated

An opened bottle of sake should be kept refrigerated. Unrefrigerated sake might taste bad, spoil and ruin the brew. Any little taste or scent changes could tell you if sake has gone bad. 

However, freezing is not advised for fermented products like sake. Drink your sake as soon as possible. If not, it should be stored in the fridge immediately. 

Signs That It Has Gone Bad

Yellow tint. Sake is clear, and if there is a presence of a yellow hue, it shows that the oxidation process has quite ruined the alcohol.

Tiny particles are either floating or on the bottom of the bottle. Any particles inside the bottle of sake suggest it is likely to fall apart.

Off, rotten or undesirable smell. It can be spoiled if it smells off, so better throw it away.

Off and unusual taste. It is actually hard to tell if sake is spoiled. You can take a small sip to test it. However, you might also confuse yourself between ruined sake or sake you don’t like.

What Happens If You Drink Bad Sake?

Sake with Japanese traditional drinking glass on table

It’s very unlikely that you become sick when you drink bad sake. Old unopened bottles of sake can still be consumed. It might not be the best version, but it will be safe to drink.

Even if discoloration occurs, no harmful bacteria should have entered the bottle when it’s sealed. But it will change in taste completely. However, if the cap is breached and something tastes horrible, trust your gut and do not consume it.  

Read:

What To Do With Old Sake

Old-aged sake can be used in cooking. Use it in your kitchen if it tastes too much off to drink. You don’t have to throw it unless it is spoiled. 

Sake usually lasts three to six months before it has to be discarded, so it is recommended to consume it closest to the date printed on the bottle. [1]

What Does Bad Sake Taste Like? 

Bad sake will have an off or a pungent smell, while good Japanese sake usually has a mildly sweet, clean-tasting drink. So, it can be spoiled if something tastes and smells bad. 

Listen to your taste buds, and don’t indulge yourself in consuming a bad drink. But how do you drink alcohol without tasting it?

FAQs

Can you drink a 20-year-old sake?

Yes, you can drink a 20-year-old sake since it has components that can preserve it. Chances are high that it will not be very tasty, though.

Unlike wine, sake tastes worse during long-period storage. It is better to consume sake at the earliest age.

Can I use old sake for cooking?

Yes, you can use old sake for cooking. It is still possible to cook with sake even if it has lost its original flavor and taste due to oldness. 

You can substitute it for rice wine in Japanese dishes or any of your favorite meals. Sake is often used in marinades, soups, and sauces to add a gentle aroma and to tenderize meats. [2]

Key Takeaways 

Does sake go bad? Yes, it can go bad at some point. We recommend consuming it within 1 to 2 years from its production date. 

This traditional drink is made from fermented rice, so it doesn’t hold up to aging as much as other alcoholic beverages. 

Keep your sake fresh, ensure it’s stored properly, and you will still be able to enjoy it in the coming months. Happy drinking!

References:

  1. https://oureverydaylife.com/unopened-sake-bad-42408.html 
  2. https://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/essential-ingredients/substitutes-for-sake 

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